Video tape recorder

AMPEX quadruplex VR-1000A, the first commercially released video tape recorder in the late 1950s; quadruplex open-reel tape is 2 inches wide
The first "portable" VTR, the suitcase-sized 1967 AMPEX quadruplex VR-3000
1976 Hitachi portable VTR, for Sony 1" type C; the source and take-up reels are stacked for compactness. However, only one reel is shown here.
Scanning techniques used in video tape recorders. (A) Transverse scanning used in the early quadriplex system requires several vertical tracks to record a video frame. (B) Helical scan, by recording in long diagonal tracks, is able to fit a full video field onto each track. The first full-helical system uses one head, requiring tape to wrap fully around the drum. (C) Half-helical system with 2 heads only requires tape to wrap 180° around the drum.
Sony Betacam-SP VTP BVW-65 VTR
1995 Panasonic D5 Digital VTR, model AJ-HD3700H. The front control panel is hinged below the cassette slot, so that it may be tilted outward to a more comfortable viewing angle for the operator.

Tape recorder designed to record and play back video and audio material from magnetic tape.

- Video tape recorder

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Videocassette recorder

Electromechanical device that records analog audio and analog video from broadcast television or other source on a removable, magnetic tape videocassette, and can play back the recording.

A typical late-model Philips Magnavox VCR
Not all video tape recorders use a cassette to contain the videotape. Early models of consumer video tape recorders (VTRs), and most professional broadcast analog videotape machines (e.g. 1-inch Type C) use reel to reel tape spools.
Top-loading cassette mechanisms (such as the one on this VHS model) were common on early domestic VCRs.
An N1500 video recorder, with wooden cabinet
A Betamax cassette
Philips V2000 format video cassette recorder
A 1982 booth at CES promoting the right to make home recordings.
A typical VCR toward the end of their popularity. After decades of refinement in design and production, models similar to this were available for less than US$50.

In 1953, Dr. Norikazu Sawazaki developed a prototype helical scan video tape recorder.


Electronic medium for the recording, copying, playback, broadcasting, and display of moving visual media.

NTSC composite video signal (analog)
Comparison of common cinematography and traditional television (green) aspect ratios
Example of U-V color plane, Y value=0.5
A VHS video cassette tape.
Composite video (single channel RCA)
S-Video (2-channel YC)
Component video (3-channel YPbPr)
Digital Visual Interface (DVI)

Charles Ginsburg led an Ampex research team developing one of the first practical video tape recorders (VTR).

Helical scan

Method of recording high-frequency signals on magnetic tape.

Helical recording method
The head drum of a Hi-Fi NTSC VHS VCR; three of the six heads face the reader. The helical path of the tape around the drum can clearly be seen.
The same head drum with the rotating portion elevated for clarity
The rotating portion of the head drum showing the rotary transformer and three of the six tape heads used in this particular VCR
Type B videotape video scanner head
rotary head visible in a VXA computer tape drive
VXA tape drive, alternate view of rotary head and loading mechanism

It is used in open-reel video tape recorders, video cassette recorders, digital audio tape recorders, and some computer tape drives.


Standard for consumer-level analog video recording on tape cassettes.

Top view of a VHS cassette
Top view of a VHS cassette
VHS recorder, camcorder and cassette
JVC HR-3300U Vidstar – the United States version of the JVC HR-3300. It is virtually identical to the Japan version. Japan's version showed the "Victor" name, and did not use the "Vidstar" name.
Top view of VHS with front casing removed
VHS M-loading system.
The interior of a modern VHS VCR showing the drum and tape.
VHS cassette with time scale for SP and LP
This illustration demonstrates the helical wrap of the tape around the head drum, and shows the points where the video, audio and control tracks are recorded.
Panasonic Hi-Fi six-head drum VEH0548 installed on G mechanism as an example, demonstrated a typical VHS head drum containing two tape heads. (1) is the upper head, (2) is the tape heads, and (3) is the head amplifier.
The upper- and underside of a typical four-head VHS head assembly showing the head chips and rotary transformer
Close-up of a head chip
A typical RCA (Model CC-4371) full-size VHS camcorder with a built-in three-inch color LCD screen. The tiltable LCD screen is rare on full-size VHS camcorders; only the smaller VHS-C camcorders are more common to have a tiltable LCD screen on some units.
Victor S-VHS (left) and S-VHS-C (right).
A tape rewinder.
Size comparison between Betamax (top) and VHS (bottom) videocassettes.
A Rasputin Music retailer (Fresno, California) selling used VHS cassettes from 50¢ to $1.98 each for people who still have working VCRs.
Fig Garden Regional Library, a branch of Fresno County Public Library, is giving away their weeded VHS collections for free.
A badly molded VHS tape. Mold can prevent modern use. See Media preservation.

From the 1950s, magnetic tape video recording became a major contributor to the television industry, via the first commercialized video tape recorders (VTRs).

Magnetic tape

Medium for magnetic storage, made of a thin, magnetizable coating on a long, narrow strip of plastic film.

7-inch reel of ¼-inch-wide audio recording tape, typical of consumer use in the 1950s–70s
Compact Cassette
A VHS helical scan head drum. Helical and transverse scans made possible to increase the data bandwidth to the necessary point for recording video on tapes, and not just audio.
Small open reel of 9 track tape
Quarter inch cartridges, a data format commonly used in the 1980s and 1990s.

Devices that record and playback audio and video using magnetic tape are tape recorders and video tape recorders respectively.

Quadruplex videotape

The first practical and commercially successful analog recording video tape format.

A reel of 2-inch quadruplex videotape compared with a miniDV videocassette
Ampex VR-2000
The VR 1000-B model (1961)
The quadruplex system
Ampex VR2000 Amtec, Colortec and Procamp at DC Video, ,
Ampex AVR 3
Ampex VTR VR-3000
Bosch Quad VTR Model BCM 40
Ampex AVR-2
Ampex AVR-2 Video Head

High-band, which used a wider bandwidth for recording video to the tape, resulting in higher-resolution video from the video tape recorder (VTR), and


Magnetic tape used for storing video and usually sound in addition.

An assortment of video tapes
A fourteen-inch reel of 2-inch quad videotape compared with a modern-day MiniDV videocassette. Both media store one hour of color video.
A U-matic tape
Video 8, VHS and MiniDV.
DV cassettes Left to right: DVCAM-L, DVCPRO-M, DVC/MiniDV

Videotape is used in both video tape recorders (VTRs) or, more commonly, videocassette recorders (VCRs) and camcorders.


American electronics company founded in 1944 by Alexander M. Poniatoff as a spin-off of Dalmo-Victor.

Former Ampex headquarters on Broadway in Redwood City, California
Ampex 601 playing a recording of "Les Paul's New Sound, Vol. II". Made in Redwood City, California, c. 1956.
Internals of Ampex Fine Line F-44, a 3-head Ampex home-use audio tape recorder, c. 1965
AMPEX model 300 half-inch three-track recorder
AMPEX 440 (2tr, 4tr) & 16-track MM 1000
AMPEX VR-1000A (1950s)
AMPEX VR-3000 (1967)
HS-100 disc
HS-100 Controller
AMPEX DCT-1700D (1992)
Ampex Model 1250 tube stereo tape recorder c. 1962 – Designed for the high end consumer market
The 5 watt Ampex tube stereo amplifier as it lay hidden inside the Model 970 shown in photo above.
The VR 1000-B model (1961)
Ampex VR2000 Amtec, Colortec, and Procamp
Ampex VR-2000 2-inch Quadruplex VTR (1960)
Ampex AVR-2 2-inch Quad VTR
Ampex AVR-3 Quad VTR
Ampex VR8800 VTR, Type-A
Ampex portable reel tape recorder
Ampex HS-100 slow-mo unit
Ampex VPR6 VTR
Ampex 350 Reel to Reel
Ampex Reel to Reel, model 300-3 {{frac|2}}" tape
Ampex model 300 preamps and Sel-Sync unit
Ampex VTR, VPR 1, Type A VTR
Ampex video tape at the National Museum of American History

Starting in the 1950s, the company began developing video tape recorders, and later introduced the helical scan concept that make home video players possible.

Reel-to-reel audio tape recording

Magnetic tape audio recording in which the recording tape is spooled between reels.

A reel-to-reel tape recorder (Sony TC-630), typical of a 1970s audiophile device.
Magnetophon from a German radio station in World War II.
Unitra ZK-147, a vintage Polish-made reel-to-reel tape recorder
7-inch reel of 1/4 in recording tape, typical of non-professional use in the 1950s–70s. Studios generally used 101⁄2 inch reels on PET film backings.
Professional-style tape reel designed to fit large NARTB hub.
A typical home reel-to-reel tape recorder, this one made by Sonora. It could play stereo quarter-track tapes, but record only in one quarter-track mono. Home equipment with missing features were fairly common in the 1950s and 1960s.
Astrovox Polaris III reel-to-reel 1960 at Universum in Ciudad Universitaria in Mexico City
Heavenly by Johnny Mathis. Produced by Columbia Records (CQ 333). Circa 1959. Recorded for playback at 7.5 inches per second.

Reel-to-reel tape was used in early tape drives for data storage on mainframe computers and in video tape recorders.

Digital video

Electronic representation of moving visual images in the form of encoded digital data.

Sony digital video camera used for recording content.
A Betacam SP camera, originally developed in 1986 by Sony.
A professional television studio set in Chile.
The Sony logo, creator of the Betacam.
A broadcast television camera at the Pavek Museum in Minnesota.
An diagram of 35 mm film as used in Cinemscope cameras.
The Blu-ray disc, a type of optical disc used for media storage.

Later on in the 1970s, manufacturers of professional video broadcast equipment, such as Bosch (through their Fernseh division) and Ampex developed prototype digital videotape recorders (VTR) in their research and development labs.